Ways To Test Scientists’ Sense Of Humor

There are a couple of pop culture items that are a bit cheeky about science worth pointing out.

The Aardman Animation production The Pirates! Band of Misfits is now on DVD in the U.S., having run in theaters earlier this year.  It was not played up in the U.S. promotion for the film, but Charles Darwin has a notable role in the film.  In other countries the film is called The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists, which is the name of the first book in The Pirates series.

Before you get all excited about a movie studio changing a title out of apparent concern that Americans aren’t keen on science, you might…


(No, seriously, there be spoilers here)

…get upset about Charles Darwin being, well, a bit of a villain in the piece.  And the depiction of many scientists at a Royal Society meeting as out for glory and the ladies (yep, no female scientists here in 1837 England).

Also recently available is the textbook Fake Science 101: A Less-Than-Factual Guide to Our Amazing World.  From the same people that gave us the Fake Science Tumblr account, Fake Science 101 is a textbook in the same way that America (The Book) and Earth (The Book) are textbooks.  You can scroll through some of the book via the Amazon link above.  A sample from the Introduction:

“When should you use Fake Science?  Only use it when the facts are too confusing.  So, in simpler terms, you should use it all the time.”

Don’t worry, please.  The author is in on the joke, even if a Texas school district was concerned enough that people would think it took the book seriously that it encouraged its teachers not to buy it for their classes.

“I think fake science and real science do converge a lot—just ask Jonah Lehrer. I think when real science is appropriated to end a debate, it becomes close to fake. Real science has a skeptical, data driven, and argumentative spirit that most “A Study Has Shown” articles lack. That said, all this is rather heavy pontificating for a guy who primarily Photoshops babies drinking from beakers.

Fake science is definitely more reassuring, clear, and comforting than real science. It gives you easy answers without confusing equivocation or counterarguments. Plus, when would real science give you a scientist who wears their lab coat without any pants?”

It is harder to find discomfort or outrage over the Fake Science textbook than disappointment over the Pirates movie title change.  But that may be as much a function of awareness – easier for movies than for books.  Personally, I think the textbook is a bigger deal for scientists’ sense of humor because it hits closer to home – satire using the tools of the trade.  But scientists’ should be able to take a few jokes.